A former D.C. mayor said on Tuesday that the retail, leisure and hospitality industries will need creativity to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anthony Williams recalled to members of the Urban Land Institute’s Europe Conference one of the tactics he employed when he was mayor of D.C. in the weeks and months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“After 9/11, I enlisted leaders in the Democratic and Republican Party and Hollywood to do a series of commercials,” Williams said. The cast included actors from the TV show “The West Wing.”
“I got all the actors in ‘The West Wing’ to do these ads about ‘Come back to Washington, D.C.,'” said Williams. “I think a lot of cities are going to have to think about promotional and marketing efforts like that.”
He said retail was struggling even before the pandemic, and so recovery would require involvement at all levels: “You need to think about how can the federal government help cities incentivize the future of retail.”
Williams said retail has to evolve, with the help of cities, to create enticing places, moments and experiences. “That’s what retail has to be. Or else [customers] can just go online,” Williams said.
Williams believes as the virus threat eventually lessens and life can get back to normal, people will be desperate for entertainment opportunities — they just need to know where they are.
“If you show me the right experiences, I want to go,” Williams said. “Because I’m sick of being stuck in the house, or being in some studio and doing everything on Zoom.”
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